Colorado Arthritis Associates
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Heather M. Berens, MD, PhD was born near Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in in the small dairy-farming community of Juneau in Southeastern WI. She attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in Medical Microbiology & Immunology and was involved in research in human papillomavirus type 16. She graduated with her B.S. in 2001. She worked as a microbiologist at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, WI following her graduation. She was fortunate to be chosen for an Influenza Bench Traineeship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, GA from 2002-2003. At the CDC, she worked with human, avian, and animal influenza strains including H5N1 in a higher level BSL3 lab. She worked with the group responsible for selecting the yearly influenza vaccine strains, and also participated in global World Health Organization training courses in influenza held at CDC headquarters. She was fortunate to have been at the CDC during the first SARS coronavirus pandemic in 2002, and learned about some of the processes of the pandemic response. Upon her return to WVDL in 2003, she performed research and development in diagnosing human and animal infections in cooperation with the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene under a Department of Homeland Security Bioterrorism grant.
Dr. Berens moved to Denver in 2004 to start the highly selective Medical Scientist Training Program at what was then the University of Colorado Health and Sciences Center at the Colorado Boulevard and 9th Avenue campus. Through that program, she concurrently attended medical and graduate school. She received her PhD in Microbiology in 2011 and studied the death of brain cells (neurons) by reovirus, which was a model system for West Nile Virus encephalitis. She then completed her clinical clerkships and graduated with her MD in 2013. During learning about immunology in graduate school and seeing patients as a medical student, she became fascinated by autoimmune disorders and rheumatologic conditions. She decided to become a rheumatologist and entered into the Physician Scientist Training Program at University of Colorado School of Medicine. In the PSTP, she was a resident in Internal Medicine from 2013-2016 and began performing research in rheumatology in her 3rd year. In July 2016, she started the rheumatology research track for fellowship. Her rheumatology research focused on the development of autoantibodies in rheumatoid arthritis, and later the involvement of Epstein Barr Virus in the development of autoantibodies in RA. She finished her clinical training in 2018 and became board certified in Rheumatology. She remained at University of Colorado as a rheumatology research fellow for 2018-2019.
Dr. Berens has a strong interest in supporting patients who are navigating life with rheumatologic conditions. She is particularly knowledgeable in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and the spondyloarthropathies of psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and IBD-associated conditions through clinical and research experience. She is interested in clinical research, integrative medicine approaches, women’s health, LBGTQI+ health, and health equality in minority populations. Personally, she is mother of two boys, has a cat (but also loves dogs), and loves to enjoy the beautiful outdoors in Colorado. She is a proud Green Bay Packers fan and Cheesehead for life!